Dark Spots

Dark spots on skin are known as hyperpigmentation and can occur at any time and for many different reasons. This is not entirely true.

What Causes Dark Spots?

There are several conditions that can cause a dark spot:

  • Sun Damage is one of the leading causes of brown spots and sun spots. Prolonged sun exposure damages the skin’s cells and increases the production of melanin, the skin darkening agent that naturally occurs in the body.  Sun damage can happen to individuals of both lighter and darker skin tones, causing the appearance of dark spots over time.
  • Certain Medications: Some medications prescribed by health and wellness professionals may cause hyperpigmentation.  Read the full list of medically reviewed side effects for any medication  in order to determine if this is a risk.
  • Melasma: Melasma is a pigmentation disorder caused by changes in hormones.  It is also known as “pregnancy mask” because it commonly appears around the eyes and on the face of pregnant women.  It can come and go throughout a person’s life.
  • Certain Skin Care Products: The ingredients in some skincare products may not mix well with sun exposure.  Whether prescribed by a doctor or dermatologist or whether in a bottle available at stores, Vitamin A formulas, also known as retinols, are not intended to be used in the sun.
  • Scars: Acne and wounds can both cause post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.  Acne can commonly leave behind uneven texture and dark spots on the face known as acne scars.  Wounds can likewise can have the same effect.

Do Dark Spots Go Away?

Depending on what caused the dark spots, they may fade over time or even develop over time.  Dark spots from acne scars or other scars may resolve over time.  Pregnancy mask resulting from pregnancy or a hormonal imbalance will typically dissolve after your body returns to its normal hormonal balance.  On the other hand, brown spots caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays may continue to develop as years of sun damage presents itself.  This usually requires treatment by physicians and other health care professionals to lessen their appearance.

How To Treat Dark Spots

How to get rid of dark spots is a common concern if you’ve ever suffered with discoloration.  There are some over the counter and medical treatment options available to help reduce or eliminate spots.  The most common solution is a topical skin lightening products that can fade dark spots. However, there are treatments that your dermatologist may suggest that may provide quicker and better results. To lighten dark spots, discuss all options with your dermatologist to identify the one that is best for you.

  • Plant Based Treatments: Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid, and Vitamin C can help get rid of unwanted discoloration by inhibiting the production of melanin in the skin.  This in turn helps reduce the appearance of brown spots and dark patchy areas of skin and effectively brightens skin.  Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid, and Vitamin C are widely available in skin care lines and may even appear together in some products.
  • Glycolic Acid: Glycolic acid is one of the alpha hydroxy acids found in nature.  It acts as an exfoliant that can help fade dark areas and even skin tone by turning over dead skin cells and boosting collagen production.
  • Salicylic Acid: This is an acid used in dermatologist’s offices during chemical peels and is also available in a milder concentration as an OTC cream. This cream causes the skin to slough off, and the newer skin typically has less presentation of the dark skin.
  • Hydroquinone: Mostly by prescription, this skin lightening agent prevents melanin production and, over time, causes the dark spot to dissolve. However, this cream has been found to cause cancer in higher concentrations and cannot be used forever. Prescription strengths are between 3 to 4 percent and over the counter strengths are 2 percent or less.
  • Laser and Light Therapy: IPL, Intense Pulsed Light, is also known as a Photofacial, targets melanin deep within your skin and brings it to the surface to slough off, effectively getting rid of dark spots.  Alternatively, laser treatments can be used to remove a top layer of skin.  Once the old skin sloughs off, the new skin appears brighter, and the dark spots appear lighter.  Many times multiple treatments are necessary to achieve desired results. A consultation with a board certified physician is recommended before pursuing a laser treatment.  They will evaluate your skin type and tone to let you know if you are a good candidate for these type of therapies.  You may think that the cost of seeing skin wellness professionals is expensive but having a procedure done once or twice is often much less than trying many expensive products for years.
  • Microdermabrasion: This in-office procedure is good for texture, tone, and overall skin and smooths the appearance of lines and other skin conditions. It is a mild treatment that has very few side effects other than mild irritation.

These procedures do not guarantee that dark spots from acne or pimples or those from the sun will be erased, but they provide lightening of the dark marks in most cases.

An Ounce of Prevention

The old saying that says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, is especially true for a dark spot. The number one cause of sun spots is ultraviolet rays from the sun. Sunscreen and keeping your skin covered are two essential ways you can stop the damage from occurring. 

Dark spots on your skin do not have to be a permanent reminder of acne scars or aging. You can take steps to prevent and treat them. When you do discover you have these spots, there are many medically reviewed solutions available today.

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